Friday, June 08, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books: Stepsons of Terra


Stepsons of Terra, by Robert Silverberg: Ace, 174 pages.



According to the introduction of this book by Silverberg, Stepsons of Terra was his 6th published novel, written in October of 1957. Silverberg indicated that he’d had plenty of shorter stuff published before this work, though, as well as the five other novels. The original title of the book was Shadow on the Stars, and it appeared in the April 1958 issue of Science Fiction Adventures, edited at the time by Larry T. Shaw, who requested a novel from Silverberg. Later that year it was picked up by Donald Wollheim for his Ace Doubles book line, where it appeared opposite of a book by British author Lan Wright.


In his introduction to “Stepsons,” which contains a wealth of good information, Silverberg says he’d written plenty of shorter “melodramas” for Science Fiction Adventures under various pseudonyms. By melodramas he means “blood-and-thunder,” and “blazing ray-guns” written “strictly for fun.” As is often the case when Silverberg talks about writing SF, he takes—at least to me—a slightly disparaging tone about the more pulpish aspects of the genre. This never fails to irritate me. Personally, his more pulpish tales are by far my favorites among his work. These include two that I read as a kid called Conquerors from the Darkness and Time of the Great Freeze.



As for Stepsons of Terra, Silverberg writes that since it was going to appear under his own name, he: “was a trifle less flamboyant about making use of the pulp-magazine clichés beloved by the magazine’s readers. There would be no hissing villains and basilisk-eyed princess in this one, no desperate duels with dagger and mace, no feudal overloads swaggering about the stars. Rather, I would write a straightforward science fiction novel strongly plotted but not unduly weighted toward breathless adventure.”



So, what was the result? In my opinion? Well, it was good but I think it would have been better with more of those pulp elements. It’s definitely a tale of intrigue rather than action and adventure. The adventure is certainly not “breathless.” Relatively little actually happens in the story, although the writing is good and the characters hold your attention. Too, Silverberg certainly does avoid the cliché descriptions of women often found in tales of the pulp era. And the epic space battle in the book is about as anti-climactic as you can get—certainly not cliché though.



According to Silverberg, the book was very well received by the readers of Science Fiction Adventures and the next issue of the magazine was full of “letters of praise.” I’m sure it was, and I did enjoy the book. Not my favorite of his, though. I guess I’d have to say: give me more pulp.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

The Snake-Man's Bane, by Howie K. Bentley


The Snake-Man’s Bane, by Howie K. Bentley, is a collection of heroic fantasy short stories from Wild Hunt Books. It contains: The Snake-Man’s Bane, All Will Be Righted on Samhain (with David C. Smith), The Heart of the Betrayer, Where There Is No Sanctuary, Thannhausefeer’s Guest, and Full Moon Revenant. Several have been previously published in magazines or anthologies but are collected here for the first time. Most are longish tales, which puts a lot of meat on their bones.
All stories in the collection stand on their own but there is a common thread that runs through them. This is the character of Thorn, a kind of demon-god from the “Rune Realms” who feeds on the essence of other gods and often possesses mortal warriors to use as avatars in our world. Thorn does not appear in all the stories but there is a connection to him in each of the tales.

The primary setting for these pieces is a mythical Europe. There are many hints to suggest that it is the same world, only later in time, as the world described by Robert E. Howard in his Hyborian Age Essay. Mention is made in the stories of Valusia (from Kull’s time) and Zamora (from Conan’s). There is mention of an imprisoned “elephant-headed god from beyond the stars” and of a “great warrior” who destroyed the tower where the god was imprisoned. This is certainly a reference to Robert E. Howard’s “TheTower of the Elephant,” which would make Conan the “great warrior.” In addition, the snake men of the title, who play a prominent role in the first story, seem quite likely to be related to the serpent men mentioned by Howard in some of his Kull tales.

One thing that doesn’t quite jive with the setting as described above is that in the story “All Will be Righted on Samhain,” which was co-written with the excellent author, David C. Smith, there is mention of Rome and the historical Queen Boadicea of the Kelts. A time is even given, 60 CE. However, the main character of this tale, Boadicea’s daughter, Bunduica, becomes a sorcerer who is able to open doorways to other realms. This connected realm concept may explain how this particular story links to the others in the collection.

Although the Howard influence is clear and spelled out for the reader in these tales, I also felt like there was a bit of influence from Michael Moorcock’s “Eternal Champion” series. In particular, the way that the demon-god Thorn inhabits various forms through time suggests this. At least to me.

My favorite story in the collection is “Where There is No Sanctuary.” This tale starts out in a way that was reminiscent for me of Howard’s “The Frost King’s Daughter.” This story also features my favorite warrior character in the collection, Argantyr. Argantyr is a literary descendent of such heroes as Conan and Karl Wagner’s Kane, but he is unique to Howie Bentley, with a particular talent that I won’t spoil for you here. He’s quite an appealing character, albeit grim, and I’d love to read more about him.

All influences and discussion of settings and characters aside, the key aspect to these stories is that they are “tales of high adventure.” They’re exciting works full of both heroic and villainous deeds, violent swordplay, and the dark doings of sorcery. I very much enjoyed them and highly recommend them to you. The book is available in both paperback and kindle if you’re looking to pick up a copy. Here’s the link:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Unsheathed: A Review


Unsheathed: An Epic Fantasy Collection. 2018: Hydra Publications. ISBN = 9781940466682

Edited by Stuart Thaman.

Contains: 9 fantasy stories, all of which would be classified as either sword and sorcery or high fantasy. Full disclosure: one of the stories is mine.

Hanging at Crosbothar, by Austin Worley: A great opening line here, “Corpses hung from the ancient maple like leaves.” Has an historical feel—brought to mind the Templars—but brings in magic as a significant player in the story. The primary hero is female and is well drawn. Writing is good; lots of sensory details. Enjoyable.

Retribution by Night, by Chad Vincent: No real hero in this story, but plenty of villains. The one known as Armstrong is most memorable. I’d generally consider it sword and sorcery but the naming convention in the story sounds more historical. The writing style is very unusual, perhaps rather experimental on the part of the author. Interesting read.

Where All the Souls are Hollow, by Charles Gramlich: My story. Features the character, Krieg, a series character I’ve been working with. This was intended to be sword and sorcery with a twist. I won’t give that away. For those of you familiar with fantasy, the charter of Krieg probably most resembles Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane.

Switch Blade, by Dr. Scott Simerlein: More high fantasy than sword and sorcery, and a tale with humor. A magical blade that can switch bodies and souls. The tale hinges on the difficulty of getting the right soul back into the right body after an accident. Ingenious plot. A very satisfying ending that brought a smile and a “well-done.”

King’s Road, by G. Dean Manuel: This one has another magical blade and my favorite character in the collection, Prince William. William’s father, the king, is not serving his land well in the face of a sorcerous invasion. William has to act but he does so with honor by giving his father a chance for redemption. A good read with another strong ending. Has a kind of historical feel.

The Artefact, by Ross Baxter: Excellent start to this tale, when three companions enter a ruined estate in search of secrets. There’s a cool female warrior named Silja, and a tinkerer named Jud, who is the primary character. I liked Jud a lot and liked how the tale ended. Sword and sorcery.

Under Locke and Key, by Jay Erickson: The only story to feature a child as main character, although there are strong supporting characters. Gwendolyn is a slave girl in a land where a plague called the “Red Tears” is running rampant. The cure to the plague is hidden in plain sight but the story is well constructed so you don’t solve the mystery until the final reveal. I liked it quite a lot. Sword and sorcery with an historical feel.

Ransom for a Prince, by Liam Hogan: This one features a realistically portrayed female warrior who must fight a desperate battle to give her liege a chance to escape. No magic in this one. Lots of good fighting choreography. And a strong ending. Well done.

Only an Elf, By Stuart Thaman: This one features elves and dwarves and leans more toward high fantasy. The main character is an elven slave of the dwarves who discovers a way to strike back at her captors. Well told tale with interesting and complex characters.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Rope and Wire, and Lane Gabriel

I've joined an online western community called Rope and Wire, which is the brain child of Scott Gese. There's a tremendous amount to explore and so far I've just scratched the surface. Generally, it provides a place where western authors can find support and support each other. Lots of good stories are already posted there, although, as I say, I've only been able to read a few so far.

My first story accepted for the site went up yesterday (Saturday). It's called "Gun Law" and features a character named Lane Gabriel. I created Gabriel all the way back in 2013 and wrote three partial stories about him. Life intervened and I never finished any of them. Then I moved on to other projects, but I've remembered the character.

When I became aware of Rope and Wire, I decided I wanted to submit something to them. I went back to the Lane Gabriel stories and found one that I could whip into shape as a complete tale. If you read it, you can see that the "end" could easily be expanded on, and I may do that over time.

If you check out my story, you'll find it written under the name Tyler Boone, which is what I've decided to publish all my westerns under from now on. Anyway, if you'd like to read "Gun Law," you can find it here.

Thanks as always for the support!


Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Blog Rejuvenation


Well, I took off half of March and all of April from the blog. I just needed a break. Sorry to all those whose posts I’ve missed, but April, in particular, would not cut me any slack. However, school is just about out. A couple more tests and graduation and I’ll be done for the summer. So, I thought I’d see if I can rejuvenate the blog a bit over the summer.


First post back is gonna mostly be writing related updates. I’ve had various bits of good news, and some not so good. I’m putting the not so good behind me so here’s the good:



First and most recent, Sirens Call #38 is out. It’s a free PDF download and contains a horror story by me called “She Fled, Laughing.” It’s gone one of the grosser endings I’ve written. I do hope you enjoy. Like I say, it’s free to read. Here’s the link.
 



Second, the “Unsheathed” anthology is now available in paperback if anyone wants. Nine sword and sorcery tales, including “Where All the Souls are Hollow,” a Krieg story, from me. There’s also a kindle version, which I mentioned in my last blog post way back when. Here’s the link:

 

Third, “The Shot Rang Out” is the first in at least 4 western anthologies of 500 word flash fiction tales that will be published this year. All are helmed by the illustrious Scott Harris. Each will contain 52 stories, written by 52 different writers, in response to a specific prompt. “The Shot Rang Out” is already available in paperback and kindle. I’ll be in all four anthologies, under the Tyler Boone name. My story in “The Shot Rang Out” is called “The Long Ride.” My stories for 2 and 3 are already done. #4 is rough drafted. I had a lot of fun with these and I’ve read the first volume all the way through and will say it’s all great fun. Here’s the link to the first one:

 



There are a couple of other things upcoming that I’m excited about. I’m going to have a Krieg story in a brand new fantasy mag that’s coming out soon. I won’t say too much until it drops, but I’ve seen some illustrations for it and they are dynamite.



Looks like I’ll have a story in a Halloween anthology this fall, although I’ll share more about that later too.



Finally, my first western novel will be published this summer through my own Razored Zen Press. It’s called “The Scarred One.” I’m just looking for the right cover now but it should go up sometime in the next few weeks.



If anyone is still out there, thanks for reading. I’m going to make my blog rounds later today, although I’ll never get caught up on all the posts I’m missed, I’m sure.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Unsheathed

A new collection of Epic Fantasy is out from Hydra Publications called "Unsheathed." This contains a story by me called "Where All the Souls are Hollow." This is the second story that I've written about the character Krieg, who is kind of a mix of REH's Kull and Karl Wagner's Kane. I just found out this was published so I haven't read it yet, but I like the cover and the story titles look pretty interesting. Right now it's available on Kindle here:

There's a third story of Krieg that is completed but not yet sold. It's called "The Rotted Land." I'm currently working on a fourth story called "Lords of War." I've been really enjoying writing about this character, more than any other heroic fantasy character I've created. Each of these tales starts with a brief, few line poem. Here's the one for "Where All the Souls are Hollow."

Out of choking dust and black smoke
came a warrior with eyes
like broken blades.
Wherever he journeyed,
war followed.
None could say why.
The survivors called him Krieg.